I think his best is the Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, which also has Jewish themes. It's a much longer, deeper book than this...no less funny tho. His characters in the other book are two Jewish cartoonists, one with a big Houdini thing going on. Chabon was on NPR today talking about his latest book, and he seems like the nicest guy....the process he describes while writing is pretty encouraging for anyone (me) with fantasies in that direction. Wonder Boys is pretty terrific too, and very funny. I read Mysteries of Pittsburgh, but I don't remember much about it.
nothing else he's written is so jewish-centric as this one. kavalier & clay has plenty of aspects of judaism and jewish themes, but this book is almost off-putting in how steeped it is in jewish culture. as far as i'm concerned, the amazing adventures of kavalier & clay is chabon's masterpiece. it's so generous, moving, and beatifully written in addition to dealing with themes as timeless as alienation, love, friendship, and family. it is, simply put, one of the finest novels of the past 20 or 30 years and few writers, chabon included, will ever better it. the new novel will only suffer by comparison. taken alone, it's a wonderful read. the characters - especially landsman - are typically well drawn, and scarcely a page goes by where chabon's gift for language doesn't stop you in your tracks and make you read a sentence or paragraph over again. once you adjust to the jewish setting and themes, you can settle in for a fun read.
Thank you, that is good to hear. I understand that he is a good author, but it has been hard to plow through some of the vocabulary. I will definitely look for Kavalier & Clay next. Does anyone know what Wonder Boys is about?
Thank you for the info. I will definitely check out some more of his books. I really was amazed at how he created such an amzing world as a setting for this murder mystery. He does such a good job of pulling it off. The only problem I have had so far is understanding some of the yiddish (I think?) that he slips into the book, and I also get very lost if I take a break from the book for any period of time. Thanks again for your response, best of luck in writing your own Pulitzer Prize winning book! Do you have any work that you could share with us ?
I've just begun reading The Yiddish Policemen's Union and I'm having some difficulty getting into it (I'm not even through the first chapter yet). I have a small understanding of Yiddish and it's not so much the words he uses but the context in which he uses them. For instance the word "latkes" which is a potato pancake...yet he is using it to refer to the officer that he's waiting for at the hotel to continue the investigation. I find myself re-reading things and wishing the book had a glossery. I do really like the feeling of 40's film noir to it (I visualize the movie version in black and white!) but I'm really hoping that the book begins to flow a bit more.
I agree. Kavalier & Clay was simply amazing.
it's funny you mention the glossary idea. i actually looked in the back while i was reading the first 100 or so pages expecting to find one and was surprised not to find one.
i read it so long ago, but as i recall wonder boys is about a broken down writer/college professor who has been writing his magnum opus for like 20 years, his ex-wife, one of his students and several days and nights of misadventure. it's a much smaller, more intimate book than kavalier & clay or yiddish policeman's union but still thoroughly enjoyable.
This is a good excuse to go out and get an old copy of Leo Rosten's Joys of Yiddish. It's fabulous and a good reference for Yiddish terms. (There's a newer version that's pretty short, but the older edition is dictionary-thick way more fun.)
my favorite two online resources for book reviews - and hence recommendations - are metacritic.com and reviewsofbooks.com. both sites compile widely ranging reviews from newspapers and other sources and make them available via one click. the other good source is through powells.com, which has a subscription service that sends a review-a-day to your inbox. my favorite reviewer - by a wide margin - is michiko kakutani of the daily ny times. a rave from her is more likely to get me to read a book than any other critic.
Best of his work's?
I enjoy this book so far, do the rest of Chabon's books feature Jewish themes or is this the only one? Any other suggestions as to his best book?
Where do you learn about new books?
My question isn't about this book's good and bad points so much as it is about the fact that it's a new release, and quite a few people on this site have it.
I first read about this book in Entertainment Weekly. It got a positive review, and I've added it to my Amazon Wish List. I tend to get most of my book recommendations from EW, as well as occasionally from the Seattle Times. (And I've gotten some good recommendations from this site too!)
Where do YOU learn about new books? Do you have a favorite reviewer who, as far as you're concerned, is always right on the money? I'd love to learn of a few new ways to learn about new books.
I get my recommendations from Amazon, but also the New York Review of Books. Some of the people in my various book clubs also give me suggestions for reading.
My library's website also sends out a monthly e-mail about new book releases.
Thanks, shkza! I'm already in love with Metacritic, and I signed up for Powell's Review-a-Day e-mail.
Odd twist on a detective novel. Very cold and bleak. Just OK
Not up to his usual standards
So, has anyone read his newest novel yet? Given my take on Yiddish Policeman's Union, I'm a bit skittish to spend the dollars on Gentlemen of the Road: An Adventure.
Borrow it from the library.
I found the first 120 pages very dense reading. But afterwards the book just took off. He has truly created a unique world here, full of yiddish and non yidddish vocabulary, gangster Jews, tension between jews and Indians, etc....really amazing stuff! Almost an alternate universe. I found it very much worth the read after the first 120 pages. You really can't fathom where the story is going to go. Is it as good as Kavalier and Clay? Not in my opinion. But very good none the less. Just hang in there past page 100...you won't be disappointed!
Having had a NY Jewish-Yiddish background would have helped some of you, as i find it delightful & quite extraordinary. The story itself was unimportant. The characters were terrific. As I remember, the ending was a wee bit too sci-fi or tv'ish for me. But I loved the main idea w/ the jewish/yiddish addition. It could have been anywhere USA, but putting it in Alaska was funny in itself.
Sounds like heaven,as a frustrated lady cop myself I look very forward to diving in.
I was highly disappointed with this book. I had read, and loved, everything else he wrote. I bought this hard cover and dove in and it was painfully boring to me. Also, if you have read any other of his books, it is wholly predictable what the dead antagonist's great secret is.
How can't you like a Raymond Chandler/Philip Roth hybrid? Genre-bending is this generation of narrative's emerging hallmark (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay and comic books?). It's like Kurosawa and the western. Take a relatively cliched genre and reinvent it. I thought the book was hysterically funny and turned the hard-boiled detective story into something I may actually return to...
I enjoyed the book. It wasn't a brilliant treatise on anything and I don't know if it made me think about the world in a different way, but I like Chabon's vivid style and therefore I think I would read anything he wrote just for that. I wasn't bothered by the Yiddish--I rather enjoyed it. Chabon's book Kavalier and Clay introduced me to the idea of the Golem--something I had never been exposed to. This book was Jewish but it didn't just play the Jewish card as a cheap way of gaining sympathy--which was what I thought about Jonathan Safran Foyer's "Everything is Illuminated"--the movie at least--I didn't read that book. I may be wrong about that though--after all they do say "never judge a book by it's movie" :)
Anyway, speaking of movies, I actually think Yiddish Policeman's Union would make a good one--one I would watch at any rate. True, the end is far-fetched, but was interesting as a political commentary in it's own way--Jewish "terrorists" plotting to take over Israel--quite a funny concept actually. Sorry for the spoiler!
Me encanta Chabon desde aquella adaptación fantástica de Jóvenes Prodigiosos con Robert Downey Junior y Toby Maguire. Esta novela es absolutamente delirante y os la recomiendo de verdad.
Chabon dives face first into every conceivable cliché about Jews and hard-boiled detective fiction. It takes about nine pages to get used to constant lines like, "This Yid, wearing a pair of cement forelocks he was, took a kibbutz to the bottom of the Baffin Bay!", but once the reader acclimates himself to what the novel takes for granted, it's an incredible page-turner.
I just finished reading this book and I really enjoyed it, but i'm trying to determine, was Naomi Landsman's death caused by the Americans who were behind the terrorist plot?